Well, here we are at the end. I hope you like it; I can't wait to hear what you think of it. :) So enjoy, and thanks for everything guys! Now I'll havemore time for "Ribbons Undone" and "LB:SG-1"...though I do have a couple of new idea for a little later. For some reason with the Twilight movie coming up I'm a bit Twilight-universe crazy. I've got some whacked idea to write a crossover fic with SG-1 set after Breaking Dawn. Somebody either tell me they're interested or tell me I'm crazy, lol. As long as you're reviewing the story, too. ;) Anyway, have a great day ya'll!
"Why am I here?" Daniel asked after a long moment.
Vala took a deep breath, and pulled a hand through her hair, which was longer on her as a teenager then it had ever been as an adult. "I'm not sure," she shrugged. "Past losing awareness in the infirmary, I don't remember anything, besides waking up here and somehow knowing where I was. I know we're in my head, and that this device has healed me, but it won't restore my size for some reason. I'm sort of stuck here at the moment."
"Are you sure you don't know why?"
She shifted uncomfortably. "Why do you want to know?"
He crossed his arms and looked at her. "From the readouts on the control console—and his experience with this device—Theras seemed convinced that there was a…problem, on your end."
"Problem?" she asked lightly.
Daniel stepped closer and lowered his voice. "Vala, what's wrong?"
She swallowed and avoided his eyes. "There's no problem. Let's go." She closed her eyes, as if trying to will herself out of the place, back into her normal-sized body and back to normal life.
"Nothing's happening," she complained, opening her eyes again.
"And nothing's going to happen if's you don't tell me what's going on," he said gently.
"I just want to get out of here."
"Don't 'Vala' me. I'm fine!" she said loudly.
Both of them fell silent for a long minute or two, and Daniel became aware of quiet sounds in the background. He looked up slowly, and scanned the blankness that surrounded them.
Everywhere he looked, faint images played back softly. Some he recognized, from the time Vala had been with them as a child, and some he hadn't seen—Vala with her mother, or father, or both, when she was that young the first time. Good times, all of them. They looped again and again, blending together, more and more of them popping up until they finally sputtered and died out.
"I take it whatever displays in here is what you're thinking." He looked back at her, and realized that she was blinking away tears.
"Everything was so much easier then," she admitted, swallowing. "I just…sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be better to just go back to that."
Daniel blinked at her. "What?"
She looked up sharply. "Well this thing could do it, obviously. I know that's what holding it back. It was built to help people, so it won't do anything else to me until it's sure I want it to. It's like I can sense it, asking me what I want of it." She crossed her arms over her chest tightly. "Well, what if I want if I want it to turn me back into a child again? Maybe I would be happier that way," she added softly.
He stared incredulously. "But—You…Were you unhappy before? Before any of this happened?"
"Not exactly," she shrugged. "But there's…there's just too much in the past, too much to remember." The tears in her eyes made another attempt to pry themselves free. "I remember what it was like to be three again. For a while, nothing about Ketesh or Tomin or Adria bothered me. I thought my mother was alive…I can't change that, but the rest of it I could forget, if I went back…"
"Vala, you can't be serious—"
"Why not!" she cried, suddenly angry. She took a few steps away from him. "I'm a grown woman, mentally. I can make my own decisions, can't I?"
"Yes…" Daniel admitted, after a long hesitation.
Vala glared at him. "What's wrong? Does it even matter to you? It shouldn't. You seemed to like the younger me much better than the original version."
"That's not true!" he protested.
"Of course it is! I remember everything, in case you've forgotten."
Daniel tried to close the distance between them, but she backed up farther.
"Vala, of course I liked that little girl. I cared about her just like I care about you. We all loved her; we all love you."
"Making that a plural is not helping your case."
He paused. "What?"
"I know how the others feel. I asked if you cared."
"Yes, I care."
"How do I know you're not lying?" she retorted.
"Have I ever given you reason to think I would lie about something like this?"
She hesitated. "I don't know…"
He didn't mean to, really, but he was too worried over the prospect of never getting the real Vala back to control an outburst.
"I'm in your head, Vala! I came here to get you back! How else can I prove myself. Why do I need to prove myself? What do you want?"
When she spun away from him and burst into tears, he realized that wasn't the right thing to say.
There was no answer; instead, she all but stumbled several steps farther from him. The pang in Daniel's chest told him that he had to fix this—now.
"Vala, I'm sorry…I didn't want it to come out like that…"
"But you weren't lying," she sniffed. He was surprised she was talking to him already, but he listened, effectively humbled. "You don't lie," she said, back still turned.
He swallowed. "But…that doesn't meant I mean everything I say exactly the way it sounded."
"Then what do you mean?"
"I—I want to know what you really want, Vala. Honestly. Not because I'm angry. I want to know…so I can help you."
"What do I want?" she sniffed. "What do I want?" There was a long pause, and finally she turned around again. Her face was still streaked from the tears. "I want things to be normal."
"To go back to normal?"
She shook her head deliberately. "No, to be normal—between us." She indicated the two of them. "Nothing was ever normal between us."
"What do you mean?" he asked slowly. "You've been with us for more than a year; you're part of the team now, of our everyday life…what's not normal?"
"Don't pretend like you don't know what I mean," she scowled. Things couldn't be better between me and the others, but it's not the same with you."
"Why not? I thought we were friends. You know I care—"
"And that's all you ever say!" she shouted. She didn't give time for him to respond, either. "You say we're 'friends' and that you 'care' that you'll always be there—well fine! But what use is that if I can't be around you on a daily basis without feeling like an intruder! It was never normal between us, Daniel, not even as friends—not even as acquaintances. You have to know what I'm talking about, but then again, sometimes I wonder if you see it at all."
Vala was on a roll now, and there was no stopping her until she was finished. Daniel had no choice but to listen to it all.
But he already knew that she was right.
"There has always been something between us, something that kept us uncomfortable near each other no matter what else we were feeling or trying to do or communicate at the time. It's like there's this barrier. A cloak of sarcasm and innuendo and biting remarks."
The tears streamed down her cheeks freely again, even as she spoke. "When I came to Earth permanently, I was already a different person than I'd been when you met me. I waited for you to accept me as I was, but beyond the fact that I had a daughter, all you saw was the old me—the person I wasn't anymore. But I knew I still needed some work, so I tried to change more for you. I suppose I have. But it's still not enough for you!"
After everything that had happened in the past several weeks, what he thought was implied behind that was just too much to handle right now.
"V-Vala, I…" He grimaced. "I didn't realize—No…That's not true. I did. I…I didn't know what…to do about it, I just—"
Vala abruptly took a few steps closer. "Daniel, I don't want you to be afraid of me anymore."
She swallowed. "All right, maybe that's not the right word. But I don't want you to have to…worry about anything—from me." Her eyes lowered again, and she stared at her feet. "I said I just wanted things to be normal, and I meant it. If there's nothing else there right now…then…" She took a deep breath and looked him in the face. "That's all I want. Your friendship."
Daniel looked at her for a long time. "I want that, too," he admitted quietly. "It doesn't do any good—the awkwardness, the discomfort. We can't even really call ourselves friends until that's gone."
Vala smiled, just a little. "I'm willing to work on it, if you are."
He had to smile in answer to that. "I think I can do that."
At his answer, she ducked her head, and he wondered why—until she faded. Seconds later he was alone in the whiteness, but then that began to fade away, too. Soon his perceptions shifted, and he sensed himself lying on his back in the pod again. A voice that he hadn't heard in almost two months whispered in his mind.
Let's not keep the others waiting, Vala chuckled.
He wanted to say something, but he already looking at the ceiling. The connection was broken.
Daniel sat up quickly, pulling the electrodes from his forehead.
The others were on him at once. "Well, did you do it?" Mitchell was asking.
"What happened?" Sam asked.
"Is she all right?" Jacek demanded. Teal'c and Theras looked on with concern.
Daniel climbed out of the pod without a word, and hurried to the side of the other one. The rest of them were pestering him with questions, but all he could say was that he didn't know. Vala's pod took its own sweet time opening, and left them waiting almost another minute before the generated opaque screen dissolved. The covering slid away, and there was almost a collective breath of relief.
She was herself.
"It has worked," Theras sighed.
Vala twitched, and her eyes flickered open. "Oh…hi guys," she said brightly.
Cam and Teal'c helped her out, and Vala threw her arms around the jaffa first.
"Muscles! Did you miss me?" she grinned.
"Indeed I did," Teal'c smiled. "Though you have been with us in mind as of late, I have missed your usual…presence."
Jacek pushed his way in next, and gathered her into a tight embrace. "Oh sweetheart, I'm so glad you're alright!"
It was something none of them had ever seen—Vala, as herself, truly glad to see her father. She returned his embrace willingly, and Daniel didn't think he had ever seen Jacek happier. He knew he must be grinning from ear to ear, but he didn't care anymore. Vala was going to be fine. He hadn't had that assurance in months.
Cameron shook his head at her when Jacek let her loose. "Come here," he chuckled, and gave her a good hug.
Sam was next, and the two friends held on for a long moment, laughing with relief. "You've got to stop doing this to us—both of you," Carter chastised, giving both Vala and Daniel a look. Neither of them could do anything but look appropriately guilty.
Vala glanced at Daniel, and then back to Sam, clearing her throat. "Uhm, so, how do I look?" she asked, glancing down at herself in the blue scrubs. "After all that time not being myself, and everything…"
"You look fine," Sam assured her.
"And we are all very happy that you are well," Theras nodded deeply.
"Awww, thank you. But I really don't, I'm sure. At least these infirmary pajamas all come large. Otherwise I would be a bit indecent. I went through quite a growth spurt in my later teenage years."
After standing aside long enough, soaking in the truth that it was all over, Daniel finally stepped in. "I think we can see that," he teased, noting her height.
Vala smiled at him sheepishly. He approached slowly, but she turned and willing wrapped her arms around his neck. Daniel pulled her in and held on tight. "I'm glad you're okay." Maybe there was more to be said, but it wasn't the right place or the right time. "Welcome back," he smiled when he let go.
"Thank you," she answered.
But her voice carried much more weight than those two simple words, giving them meaning that only he understood.
"You know…you would be welcome to stay longer…if you wanted to," Vala said uncertainly.
Jacek sighed and set his bag down on the foot of the grated ramp. "It's not that I don't want to, sweetheart, but you know me—very transient."
She swallowed. "Well then…just…make sure you come back. Sometime."
"Oh of course, Vala; this isn't goodbye. I just can't live here permanently. I tried that, remember? It didn't really work out. But I'll be around, most of the time." He grinned. "I have a reason to come here now," he said, and playfully nudged at her chin with a finger.
"As long as you know your place," she reminded him. Ni tricks while you're here, and no wearing out the welcome mat, either. Don't forget that you're not completely off the hook."
"What, after all that?"
Vala gave him a look, and he shrugged. "All right, all right, so I still need some work," he admitted. She nodded in agreement. Jacek motioned to Walter in the control room, and the dialing sequence began. Jacek held his arms out. "A hug for Daddy?"
With most of her adult independence regained, she couldn't help but roll her eyes, but she hugged him.
"It's been fun, kid," he told her, and then pulled back. "Good times—well, besides the almost-dying part. I hope we have some more of them some time soon. I do, really." Vala nodded silently, and he pulled one of his hands into a gun shape and made the popping sound and motion that she had repeated in disgust the last time she had seen him. This time she just shook her head and smiled when she returned it.
Jacek grinned and patted her cheek. "See you soon, Vala." He kissed her cheek. "I love you." It was the only part of his typical goodbye that had changed, but it was enough to signal the change in him, that he made the last statement personal.
"I…love you too." It would be a while before she could really say it with certainty, but she was sure he knew that; that he knew she really did mean it.
The stargate burst open, and Jacek picked up his bag. "Well, I'm off. Don't get into too much trouble while I'm gone."
He waved up to the control room, where Landry and the rest of SG-1 waited, and stepped up the ramp. He paused just short of the event horizon and turned to his daughter. "Bye, sweetheart." She waved, and then he stepped through and was gone.
"Bye, Dad," she sighed as the 'gate shut down.
She meant to be fine. She thought she felt fine. After all, this was much better than last time. Everything was mended now. So why did she want to cry anyway?
She only made it as far as the corridor outside the 'gate room before dissolving into tears. She kept them quiet, and tried to get past the control room entrance and on to her quarters, but instead she walked right into Daniel. He must have already come down the stairs to wait for her.
"Hey, hey, are you okay?" he asked gently, tugging her to a stop and looking at her. But she couldn't keep from crying, and he pulled her into his arms.
"I'll be fine," she cried.
Vala pulled back a little and nodded. She wiped at her eyes, trying to calm the involuntary sobs. "I'm s-sorry," she sniffed. "C-Carolyn says its just left-over extra hormones from being a-a teenager for a while. I guess that device couldn't si-ift out everyth-th-thing."
His hands moved to her shoulders. "And it'll take a little while to wear off?" he guessed. She nodded. "Right…"
"Okay, how about we get off of the base and go get some better coffee, huh?"
"I h-ate c-coffee." The tears had stopped by now, but the ragged breathing was still with her, annoyingly enough.
"Fine—milkshake, ice cream, whatever. You could do with a change of scenery. Sound good to you?"
She sighed. "It does, actually."
"Good," he nodded in approval. "I'll go get my keys. Meet me by the elevator in ten?"
"All right." she said agreed, and finally gave him a smile.
Daniel walked off quickly, and Vala wandered away to get her own things and wait for him. There was no discomfort in the suggestion, and no attempt on Daniel's part to make sure she knew they were going out as friends only. There was no need for it anymore. They both knew that. They had come a long way in the few short weeks since she had regained her health, and her size as well.
Neither of them couldn't say what the future would bring, but for now Vala was sure that they were both just happy to take life one day at a time.
For now, it was good.